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Adventure-Based Programs:
Providing Healthy Challenges for Adolescent Development

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James T. Neill

Paper presented at the Centre for Applied Psychology Symposium, June 13, University of Canberra, Australia, 2000

Abstract

Adventure education philosophers have argued that controlled exposure to challenge can enhance participants' psychological resilience. This study supports this claim, demonstrating significantly greater gains in psychological resilience for 41 young adults participating in 22-day Outward Bound programs than in a control group. All Outward Bound participants reported positive changes in their resilience and their overall change effect size was large. Perceived levels of social support predicted 24% of the variance in resilience gain scores, with participants' ratings of the least supportive group member being the best predictor. The findings for enhanced resilience and the important role of social support warrant wider investigation. In promoting psychological resilience adventure educators are alerted to the importance of facilitating positive interpersonal relations and minimising the detrimental impact of the diverse needs of group members.

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